In July of 2021, the Broad Ripple arts community welcomed its newest member, Audwynn Newman, owner and creator of The Crafty Animal. This eclectic shop features work from more than 35 artists, and it is also Newman’s studio. While his work is well-known, many of the artists featured in the space have not had the visibility they need to showcase their talent. Newman’s mission is to help these artists market themselves and get their work out in the world, while continuing to create his own.
Creating art has always been a part of Newman’s life. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he remembers watching “Superhost” Marty Sullivan and Indiana’s own Sammy Terry. The superheroes and monsters he saw inspired him to draw and create his own. This passionate spark was fanned even brighter when he attended high school in Massachusetts. It was there that a teacher introduced him to a variety of new methods and mediums. He learned about using fabric and wood in art on a variety of surfaces, and he excelled at old-school drawing techniques.
“We came up in a time that we didn’t have computers that did stuff for us,” Newman says. “You kind of had to manifest things from different mediums.”
This background helped him land his first art job, drawing for Marvel Comics and DC comics. As a penciller, he worked on such characters as Spider-Girl, Blade, Turac, Calypso, Excalibur and Conan. The work made him capable of producing art at a very fast pace without sacrificing quality. Often he had to produce two pages in a single day, and it had to be perfect.
“Going through that machine taught me a ton,” Newman says. “I use it every day. Here we are 25 years later, and I am still doing that.”
Newman knows how to produce art at a steady clip. Once he has a design mapped out, he hand-paints a run of them to sell. That run can be more than 100 pieces. This pays off for both artist and buyer, however, since it allows him to charge less while maintaining his level of quality and detail. In a time when many artists are going digital to reproduce their work, Newman remains true to his vision and creates all of his art without computers. This was a conscious choice he arrived at while taking a Photoshop class many years ago.
“I realized that if I continue on this path, there is no way I am going to be the artist I currently am and the artist I want to be,” he says. “I am so happy I didn’t do that and stayed with this. I’ve never looked back.”
He works in a variety of mediums on a variety of subjects, and describes his work as “art that identifies.” At the start of the pandemic, he did a piece called “Lady Liberty.” After posting the work, he got wonderful feedback. Everyone loved it, identified with its message and asked to share it. Within one month, however, the way some people perceived it had changed. Politically, one side continued loving it while the other felt differently.
“It was never meant to be political,” he says. “It was meant to be like Lady Liberty has seen a lot in her years, and she is going to see a lot more. It was meant to say that this too shall pass.”
The philosophy behind his “Lady Liberty” piece is an important one to Newman. He sees overcoming adversity as being a very important part of life, both as an individual and as part of a community. This way of looking at the world has led him to write a children’s book, create films, and tell stories in many mediums. It is also what led him to start The Crafty Animal.
Newman has big plans for his shop and the Broad Ripple art community. His ideas include street fairs, mentoring programs, classes, and opportunities for people to not only create art, but also learn how to get their work out into the world. Most of these plans will have to wait until 2022, however, because the holiday season is just around the corner and he would like his current group of shop artists to grow to about 45 by then.
Currently he is showcasing artists and artisans skilled in fibers, painting, LEGO art, printing, mixed media, jewelry, drawing and woodturning. The list of skills and artists will continue to grow and change, but Newman’s message will remain the same.
“This location is a vessel for creativity,” he says.
The Crafty Animal is located at 6420 Cornell Avenue in Indianapolis. For more info, call 317-476-7074 or visit thecraftyanimal.com.